I asked Bill de Blasio if he thought something fundamental had changed, if nearly two decades of decreasing crime in the city was a permanent improvement. “You can’t say anything is irreversible,” de Blasio said. “I think we can say it is structural, however. Meaning, over three different mayors and five or six different police commissioners, we’ve seen steady progress. And a lot of the tools we have now—Compstat, focused deterrence, gang intervention, some of the technology we have—that’s forever, that’s not going away…We’ve made a lot of progress, and I think we can deepen it, if we get the relationship between police and community right again.”
That was last August, when de Blasio was a candidate. Last week Mayor de Blasio got his first big reminder of just how difficult the reality of public safety is, and how much depends not on objective tools but on the judgment of individuals. Eric Garner resisted arrest. Officer Daniel Pantaleo wrapped his right arm around Garner’s neck and wrestled him to the ground. The responsibilities aren’t equal, but the sum of those two choices was a tragedy—Garner died.